In the world's Top 3
Macallan is one of the biggest selling whiskies and most famous whisky brands in the world. It consistently sits in third place for worldwide sales, behind only Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. The Macallan distillery is located close to the village of Craigellachie in the heart of the Speyside region of Scotland. It sits within a large estate on a hill, overlooking the River Spey. It was founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid and was originally called Elchies distillery, after an area of land nearby. The famous Elchies House can be found on the packaging. The name was changed to Macallan in 1892 following a change of ownership. It is currently owned by the Edrington Group.
To learn more about the Macallan distillery, read our distillery visit notes from our trip to Speyside last year.
Attention to detail
The Macallan range of whisky is extensive, including limited editions and an exclusive range for the travel retail sector. It is this sector that has helped to grow Macallan's market share. Other main markets are the UK and north America, especially the USA. Macallan was originally launched in the early 1970s and was one of the first mass marketed single malts and has long been regarded as one of the most classic examples of ex-sherry cask maturation. Macallan take the quality of their casks seriously and they have owned a bodegas in Jerez in southern Spain since the late 1970s. They instruct the sherry producers to care for the wood, what type of sherry to put in each cask and the length of maturation time required. This rigorous attention to detail has helped to establish the quality and brand of Macallan. Rumour says that Macallan have a staggering £15 million tied up in sherry casks alone!
Our tasting notes
This 12 years old forms part of the core range and has been matured in ex-sherry casks. It is bottled at 40% ABV and should cost £30-35 from a wide range of stockists. The colour is golden amber and the nose is fragrant and sweet. There is plenty of dried fruit (think of raisin, sultana and orange peel) and caramel and these are backed up by some earthy spice (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger), toasted nuts (almonds especially) plus a hint of charred and slightly sulphuric wood smoke (this must be coming from the charred inside of the sherry casks). On the palate, this whisky is rich, full bodied and very soft and smooth. It is again sweet with the flavour profile led by the same abundance of dried fruits and caramel as shown on the nose. Other pleasant elements come through - honey, toffee, cereal grains, wood spice (cinnamon and nutmeg again) and a hint of cocoa powder. The combination is sublime. The finish begins sweetly (think of caramel and honey) but becomes drier, spicier (that ginger note again) and quite woody (especially slightly damp oak) towards the end.
What's the verdict?
The Macallan 12 years old is an elegant and delicious whisky. It may be a little sweet for some but is a very good example of a sherry cask matured whisky - it shows what can be achieved by Macallan's rigorous attention to detail in both the whisky production and the selection of the wood for the maturation casks. This also offers decent value for money at £30-35 a bottle.